(Woodrow) Wilson Rawls was born in 1913 in Oklahoma and grew up in the Ozark Mountains. He used to have an old blue tick hound and this was his companion as he grew up. His mother taught him to read and Jack London’s Call of the Wild influenced his early decision to become a writer. It was not until his family moved to Muskogee that he attended high school and, therefore, had a more formal education.
This decision to write was not fully realized until after his marriage to Sophie Styczinski in 1958 as she encouraged him to fulfil his ambition. He had burned his manuscripts shortly before his marriage, but she supported him to write again.
His first work was Where the Red Fern Grows (1961) and is based partly on his childhood. Its success may be measured in sales and awards, as well as the decision to adapt it to film and in the creation of the statue of Billy and his dogs that was erected outside the Idaho Falls Library. This was put up to commemorate Rawls living in this area from 1958 to 1975 (and includes the time he wrote the book). His second book, Summer of the Monkeys (1976), has also been adapted to film and is another work for young adults. He died in 1984.